This post is for all the endurers out there. You know who you are: When your life starts going sideways, you hunker down and tell yourself things like, “I’ll get through this.” “I just need to hold on a little bit longer.” “One day, things will calm down and then I can relax.” Or, my favorite, “I can handle this.”
Listen, it’s a great thing to have tenacity; to be able to hang on during challenging conditions and come out the other side. Being able to endure is a strength.
The problem is that you can rely on your strengths so much that they start to become weaknesses.
You may be great at walking into a room and reading the energy of the people in it—so great that you then immediately launch into trying to make everyone happy, which is impossible and exhausting. And then you start wondering why you don’t want to be around people.
Or, you may be great at thinking critically. So great that at some point you stop taking in any new information because you’re so busy trying to poke holes in every new idea you hear.
If you are great at enduring, you may be so talented at it that you forget to allow yourself to enjoy any part of the journey—holding out for the destination before you allow yourself to take your foot off the gas, even the tiniest bit. Which is an invitation for overwhelm and burnout. Which you will probably also try to endure.
When I was in my mid-20s, I worked at iVillage, a network of websites for women. I absolutely loved that job, in part because we were growing by leaps and bounds and there was always another huge project to take on. I spearheaded the creation of three websites for the company while I was there—one on computing, one on gardening, and one on all things home. I lived for the thrill of a launch—the late nights, the team meetings, the long to-do lists that gradually got ticked off until, one day, the tech team flipped a switch and the thing was live.
So I was caught by surprise when, after my third channel launch, I got majorly depressed. So depressed that I sought out a therapist. Who told me that living for a goal can create a major letdown when the goal is achieved.
That really threw me for a loop, because it seemed like all I had ever been taught was that having goals was good. Smart. And so I had prided myself on being goal-oriented—now this was bad?! My brain couldn’t compute.
It’s tough to wrap your brain around the fact that the traits you pride yourself on can also be your Achilles’ heel. I totally get that. But it’s not the trait itself that’s bad. It’s the story you tell yourself that you always have to be that way.
This is all a long way of saying: Love your strengths, absolutely, but embrace their opposite as well. When you’re feeling like you’ve got to just dig a little deeper and keep going, waiting for things to calm down before you truly relax in any way, remind yourself that, while you are thankful for your inner strength, you also deserve to feel good—even now, when you haven’t yet achieved the goal or completed the challenge.
The more of a slog your life is feeling like, the more you need to do things that make you feel better. (Click to Tweet!)
Because when you feel better, you raise your energy, which makes everything better—you get less affected by other people or external situations, you don’t take the bait of feeling sorry for yourself, and you have access to your inner guidance.
So, yes, absolutely, keep going but don’t wait until you’re “done” to do nice things for yourself. In the afternoon when you start to feel tired, go sit outside in the sun and listen to the birds for a few minutes before you get back to it. At night when you’re totally wiped out, treat yourself to a couple stretches on the floor before you go to bed. When you have a choice between doing something you don’t want to do and something you do want to do, choose the thing you do want to do. And when you have to do something you don’t want to do—say, cook dinner and then clean up afterwards—find some way to make it fun—turn on music, listen to a podcast or treat yourself to a special cup of tea when you’re done.
You’ll soon see that the better you feel, the more you get in the flow. The more you’re in the flow, the more you get done and the more you experience unexpected and delightful developments. But don’t take my word for it! The only real way to change your mind is to give yourself a new experience.
What kind of micro (or heck, macro) reward will you give yourself in the next 24-48 hours? Tell me about it in the comments below. Sharing your plans with someone else gives them power.